Jun 4, 2021
By Deborah Lynch, Editor, Harrisburg Magazine
A few years prior to the tumultuous year that was 2020, credit Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter for recognizing that Harrisburg police could not continue to “do things the way things used to be done,” particularly that the unit needed to “change the way we interact with the public.”
In 2017, he brought back the community policing unit that had existed since the 1980s, but had been hit by Act 47 downsizing. To reinstate it, he needed a connected coordinator with a big heart for the Harrisburg community. Blake Lynch was the perfect person for the job. “I thought he was in tune with the Harrisburg residents and understood the pulse beat of the city,” Carter said. “You need someone like that.
“Police sometimes tend to be one way,” Carter continued. “I need to know how the people feel — what we don’t perceive as a problem, and they do — Blake Lynch understands that. He understands both sides. I tell him … ‘I want you in the neighborhoods to understand what the people need and the conversations they want to have with police, and he does a good job with that.”
He lived it
Lynch came to the Harrisburg Bureau of Police in March of 2018 as Community Policing Coordinator after working as director of development for the Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg. With the creation of the Community Services Division this year, Cpl. Josh Hammer was promoted to sergeant, Lt. Milo Hooper was promoted to captain, and Lynch was promoted to director of the division. Lynch had also previously worked for the city as a programs administrator under former mayor Linda Thompson.
He speaks with reverence about his job for the Boys and Girls Club. “I was a product of the Boys and Girls Club, so to return to a place that did so much for me and my family — my uncle worked there, my dad used to play basketball there — to go back and help raise funds [over $1 million every year] to make sure they have a safe, positive place after school to go to was really important.”
Taking the job as the director of the Community Services Division and Community Engagement has been a “different opportunity — just being able to serve in a different way, but still affect the same community,” Lynch said.
Directors of community organizations, volunteers, business owners, and residents all know Lynch and they light up when they see him or at the mention of his name. “He’s kind of my go-to in the community policing work he does,” said Gloria Vasquez Merrick, executive director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center. “He’s a great bridge builder between the community and the police. He’s boots on the ground on a regular basis. That speaks to his character, his personality, his desire to make sure that if the community organizations have needs or impediments or barriers to getting things done that he tries to help us the best he can.”
Read the entire article at Harrisburg Magazine.
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